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This is what the Kingdom of heaven (or of God) is all about.
John the Baptist was all about the kingdom, its proclamation, and the preparation for the coming of its King.
So when John’s disciples expressed concern that Jesus and His disciples were close by and enjoying a successful ministry they were a little concerned because “everyone is going to him” (John 3:26). John, who had drawn huge crowds, was no longer doing so.
Rivalry among churches of like faith is not unusual—unfortunately. Often one church will refuse to advertise the activities of another church because of the fear that it will “lose” someone to that church. Another church will not participate in joint activities with another church for the same reason, or because the other church isn’t quite as dispensationalist (don’t ask) or a little more “enthusiastic” in its style of worship (or less so). But I suspect that the real reasons are less theological and more based on protecting our “territory” than we’d care to admit.
John’s response to his disciples’ concern probably surprised them. He began with the analogy of a wedding. The bride and groom are the important part of that experience. The best man (“the friend who attends the bridegroom” from John 3:29) attends to the groom and takes a second seat.
John was thrilled that the “Bridegroom” had come, that Jesus had arrived. “The friend who hears the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it now complete. He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:29, 30). He then went on to explain why Christ’s ministry was to be preferred over his (3:31-35) ending with these words: “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.”
The Baptizer understood that everything was about the kingdom, and the King—especially since the King was working just a few miles away! The lesson for us is fairly obvious—we are not in competition, we are working together for the kingdom. What blesses another church of like faith is a blessing to us and we should try to encourage whatever we can to bless those who work with us for the sake of the kingdom.
John ends this conversation with his disciples with these solemn words: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36). Kingdom business is serious business with eternal consequences. Hooking this to the conversation that has just taken place between John and his followers, rivalry between believers and churches can, and has, caused people to reject the message of the kingdom. And we can be sure that the Lord will not take it kindly if our pride and our fear and our jealousy is keeping those who don’t know Christ from coming to know Him.
The kingdom is serious business with eternal consequences.